Rebecca Takes Revenge and Her Fury Grows

From the Monmouthshire Merlin:

Mr. Chambers, the Carmarthenshire magistrate, who was present at the apprehension of the Rebeccaites at Pontardulais last week, cultivates a farm of his own near Llanelly, the barns and outbuildings of which were consumed by fire on . A servant boy of Mr. Chambers saw 15 men, disguised, leaving the premises immediately on the appearance of the fire: these same men were seen afterwards crossing the country to another farm belonging to Mr. Chambers, to which they also set fire. The damage done at the first farm is estimated at £300, and that at the second at £150.

A similar report, perhaps referring to the same event, appears in The Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette, Cardiff Advertiser, and Merthyr Guardian on :

Incendiarism at Llanelly.

I regret, says the Times Reporter, to state, that a stack of corn belonging to Mr. Chambers, one of the magistrates, was set on fire by some incendiary and completely destroyed. I myself saw the remains of it smouldering yesterday morning on my arrival. This is a most daring act, as the field in which it was is situate in the very centre of the town of Llanelly; it is also singular that no one attempted to extinguish it, when it might have been done so easily, and the feelings of some of the inhabitants may be judged of by expressions which were heard in the Llanelly streets while it was burning, to the following effect:– “Becca has put Mr. Chambers’s field of corn on fire and let it burn to the devil.”

The Welshman adds that “Much of Mr. Chambers’s property has been destroyed by incendiaries; no less than thirteen stacks of corn and hay, comprising the produce of Ty’nwern, and Gellyglynog farms, have already been destroyed by incendiary fires, and these irrespective of the destruction of Maensant farm.” It said that a £50 reward had been offered for information regarding arsons on the two previous nights. Chambers published a plea defending his work as a Magistrate, urging people to no longer countenance the destruction of his property, and claiming that “I shall be unflinching in doing my duty, and no threats against my person nor property shall in the least deter me.” However:

Since this was issued, Mr. Chambers has been induced, probably by the entreaties of his family, to leave Llanelly.

That paper also tells the story of an informer who tried to claim £200 for ratting out an arsonist, but who was apparently not particularly convincing once he got to the examination. The authorities arrested the man he fingered (and his son later surrendered also), but then released them the next day when the accuser couldn’t keep his story straight under examination.

The inhabitants [of Llandilo], in a very excited state, awaited the result with uneasiness and impatience, and then carried Davies in triumph through the town, accompanied by several hundred persons. A great number of persons, chiefly women, also followed the informer, upon whose person they made a most violent attack, and had it not been for the very prompt interference of the dragoons, his life would have been sacrificed; he was, however, obliged to run for his life, and ultimately found shelter in the lock-up house, under military protection. He even attempted to escape the following morning, but was closely watched by the mob, and was unable to escape. He remains at the present moment in the lock-up-house, where the military are still obliged to be his guardians and protectors. It is not quite clear whether the people sympathise with Davies as a Rebeccaite, or as one suffering under a false accusation, but we almost presume the latter, as he is a very respectable farmer, and of quiet inoffensive habits, and has satisfactorily proved an alibi, in reference to the charge preferred against him.

The Spectator commented on the apparently increasing violence of the Rebeccaites thusly:

Incendiarism begins to show itself as a popular form of crime in South Wales. Mr. William Chambers, a Magistrate of Llanelly, whose tact in directing the military has made him formidable to the Rebecca rioters, and who was instrumental in causing the apprehension of those who attacked Pontardulais gate, has been the object of repeated incendiary attacks. The three last were but too successful–

Mr. Chambers [says the correspondent of the Times] owns and cultivates a farm, called Tynywern, about seven miles from Llanelly, on the Pontyberrem road. On , the barns and outbuildings of this farm were set fire to, together with the hay and corn stacks, all of which were completely consumed, and about 300l. worth of property destroyed. One of the farm-boys was awakened, and on looking out, saw the outbuildings on fire, and about fifteen men disguised leaving them. The same men were then seen to go across the country to another farm occupied by Mr. W. Chambers, called Maensant; and there they set fire to the corn and hay stacks. Three stacks of corn and one of hay, worth about 150l. were entirely consumed. On , the house itself was set on fire, and destroyed.

The rioters have also added deliberate murder to their misdeeds—

On the road from Llanelly to Pontardulais, and within five hundred yards of the latter place, is a turnpike-gate called Hendy gate. This was kept by an old woman upwards of seventy years of age; who has received frequent notices that if she did not leave the gate, her house should be burnt down. About , a party of ruffians set fire to the thatch of the toll-house. The old woman on being awakened ran into the road, and to a neighbouring cottage within twenty yards of the toll-house, shouting to the people who lived in it, “for God’s sake to come out and help her to put out the fire; there was not much.” The occupier of this cottage, a stout able man, whom I saw last night, told me that he was afraid to go out, and begged the old woman to come into his cottage; which she refused, and went back to try and save some of her furniture. It appears her exclamation had been overheard, for the villains returned and set fire to the thatch again. The old woman then ran across the road, and, as I am informed, shouted out, “She knew them”; when the brutes fired at her, and shot her dead. She staggered as far as their neighbouring cottage door, and there sank down dead, in the arms of the cottager’s wife.”

An inquest was held on the body; and, after hearing ample evidence of the facts, including medical evidence as to the fatal nature of wounds in the chest produced by the shots, the Jury returned the following most extraordinary verdict–

That the deceased died from the effusion of blood into the chest, which occasioned suffocation; but from what cause, is to this jury unknown.

At Llandilo, on , considerable excitement existed in consequence of the apprehension and subsequent examination of a respectable farmer, William Davies, on suspicion of having been concerned in setting fire to some wheat-mows, the property of Lord Dynevor. The examination lasted till a late hour; but eventually Davies was liberated, he having proved an alibi. The person who gave the information was supposed to have done so merely for the sake of the reward, and he very narrowly escaped with his life under protection of the Dragoons.

Three of the rioters who had been seized at Pontardulais, including John Hughes, who personated “Rebecca,” were examined at Swansea on and , and again remanded. They were committed for trial on .

The turnpike-roads of Cardiganshire are under the management of two sets of trustees, and the two trusts are designated by the names of “the upper” and “the lower” trust. On , the trustees of the lower trust held a meeting at Cardigan, for the purpose of considering the propriety of reducing the tolls, and of removing some of the toll-bars. A number of important reductions were agreed to; the chief being a toll of 2d. on carts, and of 1d. on lime, instead of 4d., and the abolition of the toll at every third time of passing, one toll freeing for the whole day.